LAFAYETTE — A 15th Judicial District Judge gave Jerry Steinle a three-year suspended sentence Thursday in the December 2009 shooting death of Steinle’s former neighbor, a man who had once spray-painted the word “pedophile” across Steinle’s roof.
Steinle, 62, was convicted last week of manslaughter in the killing of David Trahan, 40, following a two-day bench trial before Judge Edward D. Rubin.
On trial for second-degree murder, Steinle was convicted of the lesser offense of manslaughter, which carries a prison sentence of up 40 years.
Steinle, a retired pilot for Petroleum Helicopters Inc., testified he shot Trahan three times in self-defense after Trahan struck him across the face during a confrontation under Steinle’s carport on Rena Drive on the afternoon of Dec. 10, 2009.
The encounter occurred after Trahan had written “Jerry has sex with little boys” across Steinle’s door.
Rubin ruled the force Steinle used was not reasonable given the circumstances.
During Thursday’s hearing, Rubin noted that trial testimony indicated Trahan had been suicidal, that his behavior had been erratic and that his blood alcohol content was 0.220, well above the legal limit.
Rubin said it appeared that Trahan attempted to “engage in self-help by taking the law in his own hands.”
In addition to the suspended sentence, Rubin placed Steinle on two years of unsupervised probation with a condition that he refrain from contacting the victim’s family.
Asked about his thoughts on the sentence, prosecutor Keith Stutes said, “I’m very disappointed.”
On the other hand, Steinle’s attorney, Thomas E. Guilbeau, said he was “very, very delighted” with the sentence, although he said he plans to appeal the conviction.
“Clearly, clearly we showed that he shot the man in self-defense,” Guilbeau said.
Three of Trahan’s family members testified, including Trahan’s ex-wife, Melissa Trahan.
Melissa Trahan pleaded with Rubin to give Steinle jail time, noting that he has remained free on bond since the killing.
She said her three children often asked her why Steinle has been free. A prison sentence, Trahan reasoned, would provide a clear message to her children that the criminal justice system works and that people who commit wrongs are punished.
“They want justice for their dad,” Trahan said. “They all want Jerry Steinle to go to jail.”
At one point, Melissa Trahan referred to Steinle as a “murdering pedophile.”
Court filings claim the victim told family members years later that he was molested by Steinle while living next door to him in the 1980s. Trahan would have been about 11 at the time.
Neither the family nor Trahan ever reported those allegations to police. The allegations also were not fully revealed during trial.
The family’s efforts to discuss the allegations Thursday were objected to by Guilbeau, who at one point argued, “this is not about molestation. It’s not about a pedophile. It’s about a homicide, pure and simple.”
Stutes unsuccessfully argued that the allegations were linked to the crime and that the allegations had impacted the family.
“I would certainly rather be here today trying an aggravated rape case, but the victim is dead,” Stutes said.